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World Bank Announces “Broadband Connectivity Initiative” for Middle East and North Africa

The World Bank launched a regional initiative to improve broadband connectivity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by bringing utilities’ fiber optic networks into broadband use.

The World Bank’s broadband connectivity initiative will study the potential for developing regional broadband backbone networks in MENA and prepare the ground for new investments, and it will use a new approach that leverages already-deployed infrastructure from other utilities, such as electricity, transport or oil and gas.

The study is expected to tackle the main bottlenecks to broadband connectivity in the region, in particular providing redundancy (extra capacity) to existing international connectivity and opening alternative backbone networks in domestic markets.

 Doyle Gallegos -Practice Leader, Connectivity Infrastructure of World Bank- said “Worldwide, broadband is becoming an essential infrastructure for innovation, economic growth, and competitiveness,” and he added “This World Bank initiative will help increase MENA countries’ capacity to cope with the tremendous predicted increase in broadband traffic and to compete in the 21st century’s global market.”

 The MENA region has been actively increasing broadband connections and, as of today, broadband connects over a quarter of MENA households.

Broadband traffic in the region is predicted to grow over 100 percent in the next five years, making MENA the fastest growing region in the world with Sub-Saharan Africa.

The World Bank study will cover the region’s international and domestic connectivity and will produce four country case studies focused on utility infrastructure use in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia. In addition, the World Bank will look at broadband-based applications to increase operational efficiency and competitiveness of utilities, starting with a smart-grid pilot project in Jordan.

Findings from these activities will be shared through regional workshops aimed at boosting investment in the region, particularly in utilities’ fiber-optic networks.

The broadband connectivity initiative is part of the World Bank’s Arab World Initiative and is supported by the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) and the Korean Government.

Jointly with InfoDev, the World Bank has also produced the Broadband Strategies Handbook, a tool providing hands-on knowledge of broadband market, technology, and policy action.

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